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Speech by Commissioner of Police (English only)


The following is a speech delivered by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Tsang Yam-pui to the Hong Kong Institute of Directors today (May 31):

Someone once said:

"It is not enough just to be on the right track, because failure to move forward will result in your being run over."

Whilst I do not subscribe to one possible interpretation of these words; that we change for changes sake, I would endorse the suggestion that we must all move with the times, being prepared to change to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

In the past few years, management 'sound bites' such as 'restructuring', 'process reengineering', and 'change management' have become popular buzzwords within many organizations. Although these concepts have perhaps been more commonly adopted within the private sector, those of us in Government have also become increasingly responsive to this culture.

As head of the largest department in the Hong Kong SAR Government, I have been very closely involved with such changes and feel that I am in a position to offer some insight into these matters from a public sector point of view. I would like, today, to talk to you about the organizational changes and developments which have taken place in the Hong Kong Police, in response to the rapidly changing nature of the society in which we operate.

The Hong Kong Police Force is a very sizeable organization. We operate within a 12 billion dollar annual budget. We are responsible for the management and direction of 28,000 disciplined staff, a civilian cadre of 5,500, as well as a complement of 4,600 Auxiliary officers working on a part-time basis. We have 2,580 police vehicles, including 140 marine vessels, which is the largest marine police fleet in the world. We have over 200 police buildings, including 56 Police Stations. There are over 90 computer systems, employing well over 10,000 computer terminals, whilst our Force Welfare Branch manages 6 major trusts and funds worth a total of $240 million. We even have a complement of 100 Police dogs!

I could of course go on and on but I think these figures already give you a fairly good idea about the size of our operation, as well as the many diverse and complex facets of work which we have to deal with as an organization.

So what progress have we made as an organization in recent years? The 1997 handover, followed by the millennium and associated fears about Y2K have come and gone. Hong Kong, to all extents and purposes remains the same city it was five or six years ago. It continues to be both safe and stable; a vibrant city despite the economic downturn.

However, Hong Kong is also home to an increasingly sophisticated community with ever increasing demands and changing expectations. As a Police organization we have taken proactive steps by adjusting ourselves and modifying our practices to suit the developments of the city and the people we serve.

Major changes have been implemented in the Force in three areas. The first represents organizational culture change; one which has seen us orientate ourselves further towards serving the community, and providing it with the high standards of service it expects from the police.

The second is to focus on getting the best out of our most important resource, i.e. by applying effective HR management measures to the men and women who work within the organization.

Thirdly we continue to work towards achieving greater efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism through a greater use of technology, and in particular IT. Whether this be in the direct fight against crime or more closely aligned to the enhancement of our support functions, implementation of effective technology strategies has become an essential element of today's policing.

The most significant change to our policing concept occurred in the mid-1990s, when we saw the need for our historically based 'para-military' style of management to be modified in such a way that we could find a happy balance in fulfilling our responsibilities as 'law enforcers' and 'service providers'.

However before initiating any strategy to effect such a significant change we realized that we required a clear understanding of what we were already doing well, as well as where we needed to improve. What better way to do this therefore than to seek the views of our "customers", i.e. the Public? 1995 therefore saw us 'going live' with a Service Quality Strategy, a central focus of which was the first of what has become a series of regular independent surveys aimed at gauging 'Public Opinion' as well as 'Customer Satisfaction' levels. The results of these surveys have formed an important part in the process of shaping the Hong Kong Police Force of today.

Of course whilst we initiated these moves to address Public concerns and expectations, we also realized that the support and belief of our own officers were equally essential if the correct changes were to be effectively implemented. One of the greatest challenges to effecting change is resistance from within, and we, like many other organizations which have embarked on similar change, met with concerns and disquiet over the direction we were proposing at that time. Again we felt that the appropriate precursor to initiating any change must be to gauge the views and concerns of those directly affected, so we also embarked on a series of measures designed at gauging internal staff opinion. The results from these initiatives, as with the views given by the public, have provided us with a useful guide, upon which Force management has developed directions and strategies to take the Force forward.

Shaping the next step, namely implementation of cultural change within the organization has been a strategy to involve each and every officer in a programme we call 'living the values'. Based on established common values the Force has worked through more than 1,000 workshops a year, attended by all ranks in order to remind them of the values which they say they share and offer them the opportunity to give suggestions for improving the Force.

We have of course not enjoyed plain sailing all the way and have encountered some resistance from within the Force. Many with long held views and style of doing things have taken time to change. However I'm pleased to say that much of the reluctance which we encountered initially has disappeared as officers become increasingly aware that 'Service' forms a larger part than 'law enforcement' in our day-to-day work. Nothing exemplifies this more than our individual officers commitment to, and willing support for, an ambitious $650 million project for Station Improvement. Initiated in 1999, this project has seen the public interface areas of all frontline Police stations completely refitted to provide a comfortable, clean, and user friendly facility for the public. At the same time, officers themselves have now come to enjoy previously unseen standards in reference resource opportunities, as well as, relaxation and changing facilities. In conjunction with providing a new working environment, a fresh approach to doing things has been introduced to all frontline officers through a specially designed training package, and this has met with a most favourable response.

Service to the Public is now entrenched in our culture and is here to stay. However whilst we are on the right track we remain keenly aware that if the momentum and emphasis on continuous improvement is to be maintained, it is essential that we ensure a free flow of information, and communication exists throughout all levels of the organization. This comes down to 'Internal Communication'.

In raising this point I wonder if any of you in the audience today have ever seen a UK produced documentary programme entitled 'Back to the Floor'. To me this was a wonderful insight into the structure and working practices of several large, national and multi-national organizations. The programme focused on the CEO of a business or public service enterprise, and followed that individual as he or she personally took the time to work with frontline staff in order to see what was happening at the grass roots level. The result was most enlightening for the CEO and made him or her think very differently on how the organization should be managed.

My point in making mention of this study is to highlight the importance of 'internal communication' when you embark on something as difficult as a culture change. Whilst I am not suggesting that I, like the CEOs in the TV programme, strapped on a revolver and spent a week pounding the beat with my patrol officers, I would highlight the fact that the concept of enhancing liaison channels and an understanding of what is required of frontline officers, is an essential part of our responsibility as senior managers. In addition to going to our 'shop floor' in person to meet our frontline officers, Force Management has, in recent years, established many more channels which allow our 'shop floor' to come to us. The importance of this flow of communication for any big organization cannot be overstated.

However whilst we have initiated considerable change already, we have as an organization also been called upon to not only maintain standards in the many areas in which we have always done well, but also strive to improve in others. These demands of late have come against a background of greater financial scrutiny and accountability. Indeed the concept of 'enhanced productivity' has, and continues to be a clarion call for all corners of the public sector.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, the Force as an organization has been very successful in fiscal terms in the past few years. Whilst on an annual basis Hong Kong's population continues to grow and, as a result a host of fresh policing challenges have emerged, we have continued to effectively police Hong Kong, take on new responsibilities, as well as maintain a highly visible Police presence, without incurring the need for greater funding from Government. Indeed we have worked within the same financial budget for the past few years. We have fully embraced a 'value for money' approach and continue to make the best use of the money and resources which are available to us.

I am pleased to say that I feel both individual officers and the Force as an organization have become far more receptive and sensitive to the needs of the community. We are also increasingly accountable in that we aim to deliver the best we can from the funding allocated to us. I believe we've come a long way in this regard alone.

However the key to ultimate success or failure of any push towards providing a product or service, is the frontline workers. For the Hong Kong Police, it is for the man or woman on the beat, or on the traffic motorbike or in our criminal investigation teams who are required to adopt the philosophy we are trying to instil. They must then run with it in practice.

That is why we place great emphasis on the human resource management side of the organization. In recruitment we seek the best. The Force will only accept the type of recruit who will help shape the Force of the future. Strong, not only physically, but also intellectually, and in terms of character integrity, each recruit must be committed to serving the people of Hong Kong. Basic training is comprehensive as well as intensive. In-service training continues throughout the course of an officer's career and is being continuously improved and increasingly focused. It is also, in many areas supplemented by overseas training and attachment exchanges. Not only do we aim to instil best practices derived from our own experiences, we actively seek out the international dimension that overseas contact provides. We send an average of 120 officers on overseas courses each year, and these now include courses in the Mainland of China in order to network as well as exchange views and experiences. We want the Hong Kong Police to remain fully prepared to police Hong Kong as an international city.

The principle theme of my talk this afternoon is moving ahead with the times, and nowhere is this more keenly felt perhaps than within the rapidly changing world of technology, and in particular organizational use of IT.

Linking up with what I said earlier about internal communication is how the Force has worked extremely hard to introduce an IT Strategy which would enhance this all important area of the organization. Through a well developed 'intranet' with a host of wide-ranging supplements, passage of a large volume of work related, legal, welfare and general interest information is now readily circulated between staff of all levels; it can even be accessed by officers from home. Whether a Chief Superintendent of Police wishes to check on details of the latest policy initiative, or a young constable wants to check his leave balance, find out about Force holiday homes, or even download reference materials to study for his sergeant's exam, electronic systems are in place to offer such facilities for all.

Operationally we have introduced new technology, ranging from a state of the art tactical training centre, to implementation of a completely revolutionary, operational radio communications system. These developments are placing us at the forefront of Forces around the world in terms of general policing and communications capability.

Of course all the initiatives I have described must be coordinated and woven into an overall strategy as we strive for our vision of how tomorrow's Police Force will operate. To this end, current and future commitments have been identified, tied in with our objectives, and mapped out into a Three Year Strategic action plan with clear time-frames for completion of the projects contained in it. This is a document which has been made available to the whole Force on our intranet and it clearly describes both the projects and directions we are taking.

Ultimately the message I wish to put across to you today is simple. In both the public and private sectors, times are changing, and for those who are on track but not moving, there lies the danger of being left behind.

Being left behind for organizations in the business world raises issues of profit margins and dissatisfied shareholders. For us in the Hong Kong Police being left behind can mean the vital loss of the trust, respect and confidence we require from the community. This will in turn impair our ability to maintain the safety and stability of Hong Kong. This is a price we cannot afford, nor are we willing to pay. Therefore our pledge is not only to keep the Hong Kong Police firmly on the right track, but commit ourselves to ensuring that we never stop moving forward.

Thank you.

Police Report No.1

Issued by PPRB

End/Friday, May 31, 2002


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